Recommendations

Recommendation 1

3.119
The Committee recommends that the Department of Health, in collaboration with Australian Hearing, the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, states and territories, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health organisations, and local communities, develop a national strategy to improve hearing health in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities aimed at:
coordinating Commonwealth, state and territory services to ensure they are complementary and delivered in a coordinated manner;
developing a nationally consistent data reporting framework to record data on the prevalence of ear health conditions and the provision of services, including a treatment outcomes tracking method;
regular monitoring and evaluating of programs to ensure they are meeting their objectives; and
funding further research into Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander hearing health issues.

Recommendation 2

3.120
The Committee recommends that the Department of Health and Australian Hearing significantly increase the resources devoted to providing hearing health services in regional and remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. The mobile outreach services of the Deadly Ears Program should serve as a best practice example for national implementation. This program should focus on expanding access to hearing health services in regional and remote locations and reducing the waiting lists for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children requiring hearing health treatment.

Recommendation 3

3.121
The Committee recommends that the Department of Health together with the Department of Education and Training create a hearing health support fund for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students. This fund should:
be responsible for the progressive installation of soundfield amplification systems in the classrooms of all regional, rural, and remote schools with a significant Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander student population; and
provide support to deaf Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children to learn sign language and access interpreters where necessary.

Recommendation 4

3.122
The Committee recommends that the Department of Social Services include audiology and audiometry as eligible services for access to the Free Interpreting Service, delivered by the Translation and Interpreting Service.

Recommendation 5

3.123
The Committee recommends that the Office of Hearing Services review the provision of hearing services to residents in aged care facilities. This review should consider issues including:
the use of assistive listening devices for aged care residents;
service provision for deafblind Australians in aged care facilities; and
the education of aged care facility staff.

Recommendation 6

4.81
The Committee recommends that the Department of Health, in consultation with state and territory counterparts and key stakeholder groups, develop and implement an education and awareness raising campaign focussed on national hearing health. The campaign should:
Promote safe noise exposure practices in the workplace. (The department, in partnership with Safe Work Australia, should focus on encouraging businesses to enact measures to eliminate or isolate sources of noise rather than relying on personal hearing protection.)
Build on existing projects such as HEARsmart and Know Your Noise to promote safe listening practices in the music industry and among young people.
Encourage people who may be experiencing hearing loss to seek assistance and encourage general practitioners and other relevant medical practitioners to actively enquire about the hearing health of their patients, particularly those aged 50 years and over.
Include messaging aimed at destigmatising hearing loss and educating the public on the challenges faced by deaf and hearing impaired Australians.

Recommendation 7

4.82
The Committee recommends the Department of Health develop a national hearing loss prevention and treatment program for agricultural communities. Effective interventions piloted in the National Centre for Farmer Health’s Shhh Hearing in a Farming Environment project should serve as the basis for the development of the program. Specifically, the program should include:
The provision of education on farm-based sources of noise exposure and how the risks to hearing health from these noise sources can be minimised.
Hearing screening services targeted at workers in agricultural industries and referrals to treatment services for people found to have a hearing loss.
The promotion of communication techniques to assist people with hearing loss regardless of whether they choose to use hearing devices.

Recommendation 8

4.83
The Committee recommends that the Hearing Services Program and the National Acoustic Laboratories prioritise funding for research which focuses on:
The causes of balance disorders and potential treatment options;
Genetic and stem-cell based treatments for hearing impairment; and
Longitudinal research on the experiences of adults undergoing treatment for hearing impairment.

Recommendation 9

4.84
The Committee recommends that the Australian Government add hearing health services delivered via the internet to the Medicare Benefits Schedule. These services should include: audiology; ear, nose, and throat consultations; early intervention listening and spoken language therapy; and speech pathology.

Recommendation 10

5.119
The Committee recommends a review be undertaken of Australian Hearing’s commercial operations to ensure it is undertaking a competitively neutral approach to its participation in the Hearing Services Program Voucher Scheme.

Recommendation 11

5.120
The Committee recommends that the Community Service Obligations program be extended to provide hearing services to hearing impaired Australians aged 26 to 65 years on low incomes or who are unemployed and qualify for lower income support or the Low Income Superannuation Tax Offset.

Recommendation 12

5.121
The Committee recommends the Australian Government’s Hearing Services Program prohibit the use of commissions or any other similar sales practices likely to undermine the ability of audiologists and audiometrists to provide independent and impartial clinical advice. The Committee also recommends that:
Australian Hearing cease the use of commissions and similar sales practices as soon as is feasible.
The Department of Health amends contracts with service providers operating under the Hearing Services Program Voucher Scheme to prohibit the use of commissions and similar sales practices as soon as is feasible.
If necessary, changes be made to the Hearing Services Administrative Act 1997 (Cwlth), and any other relevant legislation or regulation, to enable the prohibition of commissions and similar sales practices as described above.

Recommendation 13

5.122
The Committee recommends that the Australian Government pursue the registration of the audiology and audiometry professions under the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency framework with the Council of Australian Governments.

Recommendation 14

6.108
The Committee recommends that audiological services for children aged zero to five years remain under the Department of Health’s Community Service Obligations program, with Australian Hearing retaining its role as the sole provider of these services.

Recommendation 15

6.109
The Committee recommends that the Office of Hearing Services fund the creation of a national ‘guided pathway’ system, based in Australian Hearing, to assist parents in choosing expert early intervention services for their children.

Recommendation 16

6.110
The Committee recommends the Council of Australian Governments:
establish a universal hearing screening program for children in their first year of school, with the aim of having all children tested within the first 60 days of the school year; and
investigate the use of an evidence based online screening program, to deliver a cost effective screening process.

Recommendation 17

6.111
The Committee recommends the Department of Health establish a system of automatic referral to a paediatric audiologist, which can be bulk billed, following identification of a hearing impairment at a school screening program.

Recommendation 18

6.112
The Committee recommends that states and territories be required to report against the ‘National Performance Indicators to Support Neonatal Hearing Screening in Australia’, and that the Standing Committee on Screening coordinates the monitoring and reporting in this area.

Recommendation 19

6.113
The Committee recommends that the National Disability Insurance Agency undertake modelling to determine the likely demand for Auslan interpretation services following the introduction of the National Disability Insurance Scheme, and the capacity of existing services to meet this demand.

Recommendation 20

6.114
The Committee recommends the Government work with states and territories to ensure that Auslan interpretation services are available for interactions with medical, law and other essential services.

Recommendation 21

6.115
The Committee supports the decision not to privatise Australian Hearing and recommends that Australian Hearing be retained in government ownership.

Recommendation 22

6.116
The Committee recommends that hearing health is made a National Health Priority Area.

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